OK, so maybe the above video isn’t exactly how it happened.
Goodby, Berlin & Silverstein (GB&S) opened in San Francisco on April 15, 1983. Jeff Goodby, Andy Berlin and Rich Silverstein had all met in the creative department at Ogilvy & Mather San Francisco a few years earlier. Total capitalization was around $8,000, or about the combined limit of the founders’ credit cards.
The idea of opening the agency grew out of a freelance assignment for a company called Amazin’ Software. Jeff, Rich and Andy renamed the firm Electronic Arts, designed packaging that looked like record covers and ran ads that openly speculated about the future of computer gaming.
Their goal for their new agency was simple but bold: produce the world’s best advertising, both in terms of distinctiveness and effectiveness.
In its first four years, the agency gained attention for its campaigns for the USFL’s Oakland Invaders, KGO Radio, the Mill Valley Film Festival, Christian Brothers Brandy, the San Francisco Examiner, Heinz and Atari.
By 1987 the incredibly unwieldy staff of 20 had outgrown the offices at 66 Broadway, so the agency moved to 921 Front Street, about two blocks away. Starting out with half the building, they would eventually take over the whole place.
In 1987 GBS won the Royal Viking Cruise line business. It became one of the signature accounts for the agency, growing over the years into one of the country’s great print campaigns.
More wins followed: Supercuts, the Nature Company, UCSF and the Golden State Warriors.
We Discover Planning
In 1988 a London agency named Boase Massimi Pollitt reached out to GBS to see if it would be interested in affiliating. The good people at BMP introduced us to their unique brand of account planning (Stanley Pollitt was the inventor of modern-day planning). GBS was impressed and sold them a minority interest.
Over the next few years, planning would greatly alter the way we worked and made our brand of creative work much more viable for very large clients.
In 1989, we created work for Honda Dealers of Northern California and a rather unknown but well-respected bicycle company named Specialized.
The year 1989 started with a bang when Ad Age named us Agency of the Year, one of the two youngest agencies that had ever received the honor. That led to a series of new business wins: Finlandia Vodka, Blossom Hill Wine, Jose Cuervo and the NBA.
In 1991 we picked up the New Yorker, Carls Jr., Isuzu and Chevys Mexican restaurants. The Chevys campaign featured commercials that were made each day and thrown away; it won a ton of awards and is still cited today in an era of instant production and immediate online distribution.
In 1992 the company sold its remaining shares of stock to Omnicom, which had acquired the stock sold to BMP some four years earlier. That same year, Andy Berlin left the agency to join Omnicom’s DDB Needham office in New York City.
The Agency Turns 10
Over the next two years, new business continued to arrive: Norwegian Cruise Line, the Oakland A’s, SEGA (for whom we introduced the “SEGA scream” at the end of their commercials), Unum, Porsche, Foster Farms, the California Milk Processor Board, Pacific Bell, Haggar, Major League Baseball and Sutter Home Winery.
In 1994 the agency officially changed its name to Goodby Silverstein & Partners (GS&P). This was done to reflect Berlin’s departure, and the addition of “& Partners” was an acknowledgment that the agency has always been a horizontally run company and that our success depends on the participation of many.
In 1995 and 1996, we saw new business wins from Alaska Airlines, Starbucks, Anheuser-Busch, Polaroid and HP.
Around that time, the “got milk?” campaign that we had created for California was adopted by the National Milk Producers Federation, and we also introduced the Budweiser Lizards, which would go on to appear in more than 80 TV spots.
By 1997 we’d officially outgrown our space on Front Street and moved the agency to 720 California Street. We would eventually take over the whole building, and it is still our headquarters today. And, no, you never get used to walking up that hill.
In 1998 Nike came to us and asked us to pitch a few of their brands. We went on to develop work for the gold-medal-winning US Women’s Soccer Team—a series of oft-reprinted ads empowering young women—and a campaign for Nike skateboarding that collected a Grand Prix at Cannes.
In the early 2000s, the agency underwent a sea change as we focused on being not just traditionally qualified but digitally proficient. As a result, GS&P was widely held up as the first agency to successfully combine digital and traditional advertising.
As a result, in 2006 we were named Adweek’s and Creativity magazine’s Agency of the Year and Ad Age’s Digital Agency of the Year; in 2007 we won almost $2 billion in new-business billings, including the Sprint account. The wins resulted in 210 new employees and 22 dogs.
It was around this time that we started working with Comcast and Doritos, the latter brand marking the beginning of our relationship with Frito-Lay. Over time, we would add Cheetos, Tostitos, Fritos, Ruffles and Stacy’s Pita Chips to our client list.
In 2010 the power of long-standing relationships was once again proved when former clients who had worked with us at Isuzu, Porsche and Hyundai again hired us—without a pitch—at Chevrolet. We were lucky enough to open a big-hearted Detroit office to serve the account.
In 2011 Creativity praised GS&P as one of its A-List agencies, citing our “fine balancing act between emotional connection and digital wizardry.”
In the years since, we’ve created work for Crown Imports, Google, SONIC Drive-In, TD Ameritrade, Nickelodeon, Cisco and Princess Cruises.
In 2013, we opened GS&P New York and transferred of GS&P Detroit to Commonwealth once we lost the Chevrolet business. 2014 saw the addition of Seagate, Twitter, Shutterfly, eBay and the New York Post to the roster of clients. In 2015 we added Marmot, Honest Beauty and Peerspace.
Going back to the agency’s original goal of creating work that is both distinctive and effective, we’re especially proud of the 57 Effie awards for our work for 38 different clients over the past 32 years.
This history, of course, omits any number of clients, campaigns, brilliant strokes and gaffes, and for that we apologize. Not forgotten, however, are the literally thousands of people who have made GS&P what it is today with the collective brilliance and generosity of their minds and hearts.
We are proud of our alumni who have spent time with us and then gone on to do wonderful things in and outside of advertising. We are grateful for those who currently carry on the tradition and are helping to build our agency for tomorrow. And we look forward to working with those of you whom we have not yet met, but whose paths will cross with ours in the near future.